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Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" Hardcover – September 18, 2012
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Open Letter to Readers (Amazon.com Exclusive)
On September 21, The Hobbit turns seventy-five. That's not a very advanced age for a hobbit, of course, but it is still an occasion well worth noting. The Hobbit is a book beloved by millions, and it has served for many as the gateway to a lifelong love of Tolkien's works. Nevertheless, I often feel that The Hobbit lives a little too much in the shadow of The Lord of the Rings. Sitting on a shelf next to the three larger volumes that come after, The Hobbit is easily overlooked, dismissed as a simple, childish "prequel" to Tolkien's great masterpiece. The 75th Anniversary provides a wonderful occasion on which to turn the spotlight back onto this brilliant little book. I can think of no better way to celebrate The Hobbit's birthday than to give it a good, open-minded re-reading, and my book Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s "The Hobbit" is my invitation to you to join me in this delightful project.
For those of you who are not familiar with my podcast, The Tolkien Professor, let me explain something right away. I know that many people find the idea of "literary criticism" rather tiresome, and the thought of some English professor "dissecting" a book that they hold dear is rather awful. In my book, I seek only to invite you to take a slow stroll through The Hobbit with me, stopping long enough to pay attention to its subtleties and to take note of the larger themes and ideas the story engages with. I won't be examining the book like a lab specimen, but enjoying it with you and sharing with you the things I find so amazing about this book. Whether you are reading The Hobbit for the first time or coming back to it for the thirtieth time, I think you will find that there are always new marvels to discover.
To my podcast listeners, let me express my gratitude and my admiration. This book is not only for you, it is also from you; it is the product of your enthusiasm as much as of mine. When I started my podcast in 2009, thinking it would be fun to share some of my thoughts about my favorite books, I had no idea how dynamic, how thoughtful, and how dedicated an audience would find me. I have enjoyed the last three years of discussion, debate, and camaraderie with you enormously. This book is only one of the first fruits to be borne by the branch of the Tree of Story that we have been unfolding together, and I am tremendously excited to see what else we will build together.
I hope you will all have the chance to read The Hobbit again this fall, and thanks for joining me on my little adventure.
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Top Customer Reviews
Fans of "The Tolkien Professor" know Prof. Olsen's style, and he keeps true to it in this book. For those who haven't listened to the podcast (hundreds of free hours of college-level analysis of Tolkien's works - WHY AREN'T YOU LISTENING TO THE PODCAST?) Prof. Olsen goal is to make rigorous, academic analysis of Tolkien's works accessible to the public. He is absolutely brilliant but also explains his analysis in a way that any high-school educated person could probably understand. No "highfalutin" vocabulary in this book.
It might be useful to explain what this book is NOT. First, this is not a history of the writing of Tolkien's Hobbit. Prof. Olsen does not spend any time discussing the literary sources that influenced Tolkien or pouring over the multiple early drafts of the Hobbit. Prof. Olsen recommends John D. Rateliff's The History of the Hobbit for that account. Prof. Olsen himself is also offering an online course about the writing of the Hobbit at the Mythgard Institute. However, that's not this book.Read more ›
Reading Corey Olsen's work here was a delightful experience for me. I read each chapter of his book and had a copy of The Hobbit right beside it. Not only did I once again get to experience or reading this wonderful little tale, I must admit to you that I did learn a lot, had stuff I knew I knew but had that knowledge reinforced by Mr. Corey's work and I most certainly picked up a lot of knew knowledge. This was particularly so when it came to the songs and poetry found in the Hobbit. I will never read these things again; and indeed, I will read them again, and look at them through the same eyes as before.
`Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's Hobbit' is a fun read and a relaxing read. It is well written and is quite readable. You do not have to, nor are you required to agree with everything the author has to say and in fact part of the joy of reading this work is the arguments that will slip into your own mind as each chapter is investigated. This work makes you think and causes you to approach the subject, i.e. Hobbit Lore, from a slightly different angle.
I enjoyed this work. It has motivated me to give LOTRs another read - another of many reads. I wish the author would write a like work addressing these next three books.
Olsen is better known on the web as The Tolkien Professor. His website of the same name offers a rich resource of reading material and podcasts on Tolkien's writings. An Assistant Professor of English at Washington College in Maryland, he has spent years in research and analysis. This might set off warning bells for people who associate college English professors with dry as dust monotonal lectures, but let me hasten to reassure you that Olsen's writing style is as fresh and lively as his scholarship is rigorous.
This book is a chapter by chapter analysis of The Hobbit. There are six main themes: Bilbo's Nature, referring to the struggle between his stodgy Bagginsishness (a delightful coinage by Olsen) and his audacious Tookishness; Bilbo's Choices, the turning points in various stages of Bilbo's journey; Burglar Bilbo, referring to his "official" role as part of the Quest for Erebor and how he fulfills it; The Desolation of the Dragon, meaning the environmental and moral depredation caused by the dragon and the all too desirable golden treasure; Luck, meaning the many "coincidences" and fortunate turns that save Bilbo and the dwarves many times throughout the journey, and which Olsen demonstrates are not just "lucky" at all; and finally The Writing of The Hobbit, descriptions of how Tolkien constructed the story and wrote and rewrote it as its nature changed.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A wonderful companion to The Hobbit. While The Hobbit is a lovely story on its own, this helps the reader see so many dimensions to the story. Glad I bought it.Published 17 days ago by PCD
I've always looked on The Hobbit as Tolkien's "kiddie's tale," especially when compared to all that came after. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Michael Davis
For readers with my vice, too-fast reading for action first and plot second, this delightful book shows us how to slow down and discover all the treasures Tolkien hid within the... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Phebe
I thought the book might be a little dry but Olsen is a fine writer that held my interest and made me want to read more. I found this book fun to read and learned so many things. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Heidihamberger@aol
We read The Hobbit as part of our fantasy genre, and I rely heavily on this book for source notes and explanations.Published 13 months ago by Jmill
Corey Olsen has written a readable, detailed, insightful commentary to J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit. Read morePublished 13 months ago by ROBERT MOYNIHAN
I thought I was already well versed on THE HOBBIT but this pleasant book showed me many subtle points that I'd missed. It reads like a friendly chat with a veteran scholar.Published 14 months ago by Sandra Miesel
Made The Hobbit brand new again! Loved this book. A must-have for any one who has read The Hobbit.Published 14 months ago by Ryan D. Walker
I loved this. It made me appreciate aspects of The Hobbits I couldn't quite put into words, and definitely showed how The Hobbit serves as a bridge between The Silmarillion and... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Loves to Knit